*John Marshall Jones is instantly recognizable by many of his younger fans as the devoted father Floyd Henderson from WB hit sitcom “Smart Guy.”
While he has landed notable roles beyond the wholesome family show, Jones is an actor whose easy-going demeanor appeals to mainstream audiences, as well as, affords African-American viewers the comfort of knowing that when he graces either the small or big screen, he will undoubtedly portray a role that will go beyond stereotypical caricatures.
Long before he entered the gates of Hollywood, Jones made a promise to himself that he would only take parts that honored the humanity of the black male existence. His commitment to his artistic integrity has resulted in Jones cultivating a very successful career; he has appeared on “The Mentalist,” “Glee,” “Dexter,” “NCIS”, “Criminal Minds” and “Bones.”
Although he is veteran in show business, Jones shows no signs of slowing down as he is always adding further accomplishments to his flourishing resume. As a gainfully employed actor, due to his remarkable talent, he is enjoying the fortunate opportunity to juggle three diverse roles.
Currently, he plays the role of Special Agent Jay on Amazon Studio’s detective drama “Bosch.” Flip the channel and you will catch him as the affable Clevon ‘Smitty’ Smith on Bounce TV’s family comedy “In the Cut,” and in his upcoming role as Pickle, an ex-con who seeks to readjust to life outside of prison, in the Sundance Channel series “Rectify.”
All in all, 2016 has been an excellent year for Jones. EURweb.com talked to the actor by phone about his role as a cop on “Bosch” and his thoughts on the rising conflict between law enforcement and the African-American community. Check out our conversation, below.
In Bosch you play Special Agent Jay, what can audiences expect from the upcoming season?
The next season drops next March 2017. Special Agent Jay Griffin is the head of a special Homeland Security/F.B.I. Task Force where he oversees multiple investigations as they pertain to this task force and Bosch has murder investigation that is going on that comes under the umbrella of Jay Griffin’s task force.
Bosch is getting involved in stuff that he doesn’t need to be getting involved in from Jay Griffin’s perspective. So Jake Griffin is all in his face all the time about the smaller investigation that Bosch thinks is so important. I am trying to give Bosch a larger perspective that it is bigger one murder or robbery. It is a global phenomenon that Jake Griffin is trying to fight against.
Titus Welliver, who plays Harry Bosch, said some the scenes are filmed in real places like a morgue with real dead bodies. Have you shot scenes at these real locations and if so, how does that help with your acting and the development of your character?
I have experienced some of the real locations, and every location retains a memory, and you could walk into some place and feel it. You’ve had that feeling before when you walked into a house where it’s just felt weird and uncomfortable. Later on, you find out something weird happened there because every location has a memory and every memory have a vibration. So what we are trained to do as actors is to pick up all of the vibrations in any of those locations that have a pronounced memory, be aware and express ourselves as if that memory belongs to us.
What makes this cop show different from other cops shows and why do you think fans have gravitated to it?
Most cop shows are episodic, and they end in sixty minutes. They find the killer; they wrap it up, and the story is over. Bosch is more like a movie, and it takes ten episodes, ten hours to wrap up the story. With that kind of time, you can go way deeper into the character and the story. In real life, things don’t resolve in sixty minutes. You know the longer you have the experience, the deeper and richer the experience becomes.
Playing a cop in the fictional world, what are your thoughts on what is currently going on in our society with cops shooting unarmed black men and women, and the cops killed in Dallas?
My thought is that while it is true that ninety-nine percent or more of police are doing their job and doing it well. That one percent the question is how we identify them before they kill an unarmed person. There is a blue wall within the police department where they do not tell on each other. So it is possible there are policemen within the police department that know who the bad cops are but won’t tell anybody.
When I was a young man, this is a replay of what was going on the sixties and in Detroit, they had a team of officers called S.T.R.E.S.S., and they were known for kicking down doors and shooting everybody in the house. They would say ‘they were shooting us’ and then you would find out later there were no guns at all. This phenomenon we are seeing is not new. It has been going on for years it is just that we have video cameras that are capturing it. At that time, during all that unrest, the KKK came out and said that their next plan was to infiltrate police departments all over the country, now was in the sixties. In 2006, the FBI did an investigation where they found that the KKK had [indeed] infiltrated the police departments all over the country. You can Google FBI investigation of the KKK and police, and you will find this report. So now we have [their] behavior on videotape that looks like summary executions of white police, by white police of unarmed black civilians and no matter how they comply they end up getting shot anyway. I am not saying those policemen are members of white supremacists organizations, they may be or not be, who knows, but their behavior is consistent as if they were. That is the type of investigation that we need to start having and start calling for based on the 2006 FBI report, how deeply have white supremacists organizations infiltrated urban police departments? If we find that this is still valid, then how do we move those police out of policing our communities?
Perhaps the way to do it is just to pension them out, move them along with an early retirement, say ‘thank you so much for your service’ and get them out from being around our children. We should be demanding the Department of Justice to look at the FBI report and cross reference it with what seems to be civil rights violations and possibly hate crimes. And see where those two intersect and at the intersection is where you can begin to prosecute people for hate crimes. We don’t know if that is what it is, but we also don’t know that what it isn’t. We only know the behavior is consistent with what appears to be a hate crime.
What is your perception of law enforcement before you took the role and what is your perception now?
Overall my perception is the same; we need law enforcement in order to have an orderly society. You only need to watch a few episodes of “Cops” to see how hard the job is; it is not an easy job, it is not for the faint of heart, and we only call the police when the worst of our humanity is displaying itself. I feel that law enforcement is a very necessary and noble profession. I also feel like it would be helpful to our community that rather than discouraging our children from interacting with the police that we start encouraging our young men to become police. Therefore, a higher level of minority participation would make community policing easier because there will be more African-American and Hispanic police on the squad.
After the shootings in Dallas, Dallas Police Chief David Brown encouraged more African-American males to join law enforcement. Many people have been commenting that they want to see more African-American law enforcement in African-American communities and one of the other requirements was that those members of law enforcement had to live in the community that they police.
It is a job that is necessary, you need high moral character, but you do not need a college degree. So a young man that does not see college as his option, but does have a sense of moral character, it would be a great job for him. But we must encourage that and make it aspirational within our community because no one is going to do that job if everyone hates the people that are doing it. We have a part to play to encourage and support young men that want to go into the law enforcement because they want to help and protect our community.
To diverge for a second, I produced a film called “The Last Revolutionary” [based on the book by Levy Lee Simon] that brings into question that a lot of these issues that we’re talking about now. The core of the film is two former Black Panther type revolutionaries. One of has become a modern day suburbanite with the B.M.W., the big house with the picket fence, and the beautiful wife, he is totally assimilated. The other one is still in the same apartment he was in from 1972, still with the weapons, peeking out the windows waiting for the revolution to start.
The interaction between those two characters is the interaction between who black folks were from a revolutionary standpoint in 1972 and who we are now from an American standpoint in 2016. That discussion is absolutely riveting because it exposes us to us in so many ways within an hour and a half.
You have made it known that you are very selective about the roles you pursue as an African-American man, and you try to elevate the image of African-American people on a global scale. How does your character on Bosch play into your morals?
For one, the character is one of the main authority figures. An authority figure by its very nature is somebody who has risen through the ranks through accomplishment, integrity, and a high sense of character. I always like to play roles like that because this type of role and show gets viewed all over the world. For people around the world that don’t have a chance to interact with African-Americans, they think we are what they see on T.V.
The roles that we put out there on television are very important and the bigger the show, the more impactful it is. Bosch is a huge hit worldwide because anybody in the world can get Amazon.
Do you anticipate that the series will explore what is going on presently in our society?
I’m not sure. I do know that this series deals with the dark side of organized crime is what Bosch seems to be taking on quite a bit. Another thing that I love about his show, if you sit down and watch a couple of episodes of Bosch, there is a very high percentage of minority representation in both traditional and nontraditional roles. In the show, the Chief of Police played by Lance Reddick is black. Bosch’s partner played by Jaime Hector is black. The chief of police’s wife is black as well, many of the smaller roles are [played by] black and Hispanic [actors]. They are doing a good job of representing at least the coloring of urban America.
You play Pickle an ex-con in Rectify?
“Rectify” comes out September on the Sundance Channel. Pickle has been in prison for 25 years. Now he has just gotten out, and he has nobody. He has no relatives who want to have anything to do with him but his mother. In a way, he is so filled with the shame of the disappointment he has [brought] to his mother that he does not call her until he has some good news. He is living in a halfway house with several other ex-cons and what a fascinating methodical exploration of life. It is one of those shows that you want to sit down and just binge.
You are also on a new show that is a comedy, In the Cut on Bounce TV playing Clevon ‘Smitty’ Smith, how do you balance all your projects?
(Laughs) I do all I can. I go to work when they call, and we figure out a way to make it work. I find it interesting that I am doing all [this] at the same time, a comedy that is just broad, crazy, and funny. Then a cop show, an investigative drama that is dark and exploratory, and a drama about a man’s journey after years in prison to try to reincorporate himself into society. Playing all those at the same time, as well as, the character I played in the “Last Revolutionary”, it’s been quite a year.
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This interview has been condensed and edited.